- The Container Store said it is outfitting more than 3,000 employees in more than 70 of its 80 stores nationwide with Theatro's wearable device by the end of next month, a move that comes about three years after the companies partnered on a one-store pilot program.
- The Container Store employees will use the Theatro Communicator, a credit card-sized, WiFi-enabled, voice-controlled device including a broad suite of retailer applications, including communication between wearables across the enterprise, SKU look-up, employee location tracking, store analytics and other applications. The unit weighs 1.5 oz, clips to the employee's shirt collar or belt loop, and delivers battery life ranging from six to eight hours.
- The Communicator device comes at no cost to retailers subscribing to Theatro's software-as-a-service capabilities. The Container Store advised Theatro on development of the device during the pilot program.
Smart wearable devices aren't just for consumers who might soon use smartwatches to pay for merchandise rather than standing in line at checkout. Wearables, especially those with "hearable" or voice-activated technology to access a range of support functions, also are coming to be seen as tools worth investigating for retailers looking to improve operational efficiency.
No retailer may understand this better than The Container Store, after spending roughly three years in a pilot program testing how the Theatro Communicator enterprise wearable could be leveraged to improve operational efficiency in its retail stores. The Container Store may have taken its sweet time getting to this stage and showing its arsenal of walkie-talkies the exit door, but that immersive pilot program appears to have given the storage and organization solutions retailer clear ideas of how wearables can benefit its operations.
"The wearable gives all employees immediate access to store resources such as inventory availability and status of pickup orders via a simple conversational voice user interface, providing us less wait time for customers and better staff productivity all around," John Thrailkill, executive vice president of IT and business development for The Container Store, said in the company's press release. "Employees can use the wearables apps to have one-to-one conversations, share expertise and product information, support one another, and guide new teammates all while remaining heads-up and hands-free.”
What this means in practical everyday terms, at least in part, is that store employees wearing the Theatro Communicator can stay on the spot, engaged eye-to-eye with customers as they serve them and quickly answer their questions, rather than running off to check supplies or searching the aisles for another employee with better information, all while the customer waits and wonders just how long they'll be stuck in the store and if the trip will be worth the trouble.
Not many retailers appear to have tried on wearables yet to the extent The Container Store has, but that could change very soon. Almost since the earliest development of consumer wearable devices, market observers have suggested they could be adapted for the particular needs of an array of industry verticals. In retail, for example, Deloitte Consulting advised in mid-2015 that it was indeed time for retailers to take action, first by aggressively investing in pilot programs to find out what wearables technology could do for them—and mentioning The Container Store's and Theatro's relationship as one early example of such a program.
"Much like Fortune 500 companies ranging from GE to PepsiCo have embraced enterprise mobile apps, wearables could present the next big enterprise opportunity in the retail industry," Deloitte wrote.